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Yes, they can hear us! Yes, they can see us!
Gospel Reflection for November 2, 2023
Today we commemorate All Souls and the first reading is very instructive. It comes from the Book of Wisdom, one of those books that Martin Luther cut from the Bible because it did not fit his doctrine. We are very blessed, as Catholics, to have full and complete Bibles. Our Protestant brothers and sisters who are taught that they must hold as the highest authority a Protestant Bible, such as the King James Version, lack much of the instruction into our faith that God intended.
The souls of the just are in the hand of God,
and no torment shall touch them.
They seemed, in the view of the foolish, to be dead;
and their passing away was thought an affliction
and their going forth from us, utter destruction.
But they are in peace.
For if before men, indeed, they be punished,
yet is their hope full of immortality;
chastised a little, they shall be greatly blessed,
because God tried them
and found them worthy of himself.
As gold in the furnace, he proved them,
and as sacrificial offerings he took them to himself.
In the time of their visitation they shall shine,
and shall dart about as sparks through stubble;
they shall judge nations and rule over peoples,
and the Lord shall be their King forever.
Those who trust in him shall understand truth,
and the faithful shall abide with him in love:
because grace and mercy are with his holy ones,
and his care is with his elect.
Perhaps if Protestant Bibles contained all those books that the original Bible of 300-and-something AD contained, as compiled, translated and published by the One, Holy and Apostolic Catholic Church, they would not be so confused as to the role of the Saints. But, even Protestant Bibles contain the Book of Revelation, or the Apocalypse, by Saint John… although, Luther wanted this one removed as well. Revelations tells us plainly of the saints in Heaven, offering up prayers to the Father for the living and that they would judge the nations, just as (according to Jewish tradition) King Solomon wrote in the Book of Wisdom centuries before.
Yet often, non-Catholics will state firmly and angrily that the saints are just people, like us. They are in Heaven…. far away from us. They cannot hear our prayers and it is wrong to pray to them. Some even maintain that they could not understand our modern languages. This is very flawed reasoning and a sad state of affairs.
I have written about this before, but it has been on my mind a lot lately.
First, we must consider the question, “Where is God?” Well, the Bible gives us several answers. God exists outside of space and time, unbound by the physical. God is omnipresent, everywhere at once. In God we live, move and have our being. God, we are told, also exists within the heart of each Christian. So, God is everywhere at all times and within us. Where are the saints? The saints are in Heaven, with God. Where is Heaven? Heaven is where God and the saints live together in eternal communion. Where is Heaven then?
If we could truly see reality, unincumbered by the limitations of human perception and reason, we would realize that Heaven is here, now… around us and in us. Saint Paul said that we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses. Witness comes from the Latin meaning one who sees and hears. Both the saints and angels then, according to the Bible are here with us now. Saint Padre Pio said that if we could see reality as it truly is we would see ourselves so surrounded by angels and demons vying for our souls that they would block out the sun!
But, you may ask about the parable of Lazarus and the rich man. What of the great chasm separating the rich man from heaven and earth. But, Jesus was speaking of eternal things. Only eternal things are real. When God answered the question of who He was, He did not answer in time or space, He said, “I am that am.” Through original sin, humanity has been separated from the eternal in this life. Most of us barely understand the eternal, much less perceive it. The Bible tells us that Heaven and Earth will pass away at the end of time. That means that reality as we know it will come to an end and will be joined with the eternal. Heaven, purgatory and hell are far more real than all we can know of our present state of existence. This is fleeting and transitory.
Several saints tell us of visions they have had of the converging of Heaven and Earth at the Holy Mass. What does this mean? They see our Lord and all the Heavenly Host, the angels and saints opened before them during the Eucharist. But, God and Heaven are omnipresent… then this glimpse at Mass, no matter how astounding, is only a foreshadowing. In the Eucharist, Jesus becomes both physically and spiritually present. It is no wonder that those holy souls to whom God grants such insight should see the physical and spiritual world merge at such a time. But, even then we must remember that the Mass is being offered somewhere on this earth at every moment of the day and God is physically present here with us, in linear time. How often do we read the Gospels and think of what it must have been like to be alive during Jesus’ earthly ministry… and yet, here He is, now, in the Eucharist! The problem is our lack of perception.
The saints, we must remember have no lack of perception. When the Holy Spirit descended upon the Apostles at Pentecost, they could speak all languages and understand all of humanity. Further, in Acts, we learn that Saint Peter could read hearts and minds. How much more are the Saints in Heaven unified with God and filled with the Holy Spirit? No matter how holy a living person may be, the Saints are purified, cleansed and divinized, part of the Body of Christ and far more alive than are we!
Yes, they can hear us! Yes, they can see us! Yes, they are here with us now! Death is conquered and with it linear time. The Saints are more alive now than ever and sharing in the very nature of God. And, what does it mean to share in the nature of God but to share in His mission, which is to bring all souls to salvation in Heaven, to make saints of us all?
The Bible instructs us to pray for each other as Christians. By no means does this charge end with physical death. We are told that the prayers of the righteous availeth much. Who is more righteous than a saint, considering that the Bible also tells us that nothing unclean can enter Heaven? Faith and hope, being cardinal virtues, hinge on belief in what we can neither see nor understand. Isn’t it about time that we stop trying to limit the power of God by what man can understand and perceive? Afterall, it was that very disobedience in seeking the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil through which our first ancestors brought us to this pitiable state.
Wisdom begins in the realization that we are inferior to God. God, alone, is Truth. He entrusted His Catholic Church to teach with His authority on matters of morals and doctrine. We also find in the Catholic Church divinely inspired theology. Christ gave to His Church knowledge of the saints and their role. Anyone who refuses their help is like a starving man given a loaf of bread, who refuses it because he doesn’t like rye.
Judson Carroll is the author of several books, including his newest, Confirmation, an Autobiography of Faith. It is Available in paperback on Amazon:
His new podcast is The Uncensored Catholic https://www.spreaker.com/show/the-uncensored-catholic